Gate Anime – First Impressions

Series Introduction

In August of 20XX, a mysterious gate suddenly appears in modern-day Tokyo’s Ginza district.  Warriors who appear to be from middle-age Europe, monsters (e.g. “orcs” and dragons) and other fantasy-like beings pour out of the gate killing many Tokyo citizens in the name of conquest.  The Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF) is quickly mobilized and defeats the invaders using superior modern weaponry and tactics, but the mysterious gate remains. The Japanese government decides to send part of the JSDF to investigate the alternate world beyond the gate. Led by otaku soldier Lt. Itami,Youji, an Intelligence and Reconnaissance platoon (Recon 3) discovers that villages in the world are being attacked by a flame dragon. An elf girl, the sole survivor of one such attack, joins the group as they travel across this dangerous new world.

Gate: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri (Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There (“GATE”)) started as a web novel which, among other things, was noted for right-wing politics. The web novel was turned into a novel which, from comments I’ve read, toned down the political stuff some. The web novel was then taken down so novel = “cannon”/original source material. The novel was adapted into a light novel (LN) which apparently further toned down the political stuff along with some other things (my impression is that the LN is more “PG” shounen than “R” rated seinen). Lastly the novel was adapted into a manga which according to comments I’ve read follows the novel closely (manga is definitely NSFW/ “R” rated seinen). Currently, only the manga is translated to English in any meaningful aspect, and right now is just past the first two novels/4 LNs. The anime is supposed to be based upon the LN, so differences between that and the manga may be either due to anime only changes or differences between the LN and manga adaptations.

Impressions

– Daikama

Let me get this out of the way. First, GATE anime so far isn’t bad. Second, I’d probably like it more if I hadn’t read the manga. No, I’m 99.99% sure I’d like it more if I hadn’t read the manga. I think you can see where this is headed. Yeah, GATE anime is not bad, but it could be a lot better in my opinion, and doesn’t compare well to the manga.  It’s really unfortunate because the issues are not due to potential broadcast censoring or limited air time (this got a 2-cour/24 episode run). There are a myriad of reasons why this is so for me. Among the foremost are character changes. Itami (33 years old) isn’t an otaku, he’s an OTAKU!!! in the anime. Nice thing about “manga Itami” is that he has a good balance between “Itami the otaku” and “Itami the soldier”. Not only did that make him a very likable character for me, but it also helped a lot with suspension of disbelief when it came to more serious scenes when Itami takes charge as commander. Anime’s presentation (which I can only surmise was done for extra “comedy”) undermines his character. Sorry, but for me “anime Itami” is not nearly as good of a character as “manga Itami.”

GATE Anime Inital Review_04

*sigh~* I wish this was more like the manga….

GATE Anime Inital Review_06

“Umm… why is acting like this better again, Director-san?”

Sadly, the character changes are not limited to Itami. Suddenly Kurata (age 21) is a “sort of kind of” otaku, which is a big change from the manga. In the anime he plays the straight man to Itami a lot whereas in the manga, he’s a very big otaku (more so than Itami) and a huge fan of monster girls. He’s the comedy relief guy. He also comes across is more immature in the manga than Itami which makes sense given their age difference and rank. It’s like the anime swapped their personalities. 😦 While I don’t hate Kurata, he’s definitely not my favorite member of Recon 3, so I’m not really thrilled the anime decided to give him a much larger role because… “reasons”. “Anime Tuka” (sorry, I like manga TL Tuka better) is more timid than “manga Tuka” because… hell if I know. Gotta fill a trope/cliché? She does have the whole dad/fire dragon PTSD thing going on, but the anime went noticeably beyond that. Bleh.

GATE Anime Inital Review_02

“It’ s not a copyright infringement ’cause I’m an orc!”

GATE Anime Inital Review_01

“OINK!” Scary? I guess…

Another issue is that while I expected the anime to be less graphic/gory/intense (i.e. more “PG” shounen than “R” rated seinen), I think it goes too far in that regard. In some cases, it’s fine, but things like the comic book looking orc (also in PV), and far worse Sonic the HedgeOrc (same one?) – complete with spinning ball attack no less, are utterly unnecessary and hurt suspension of disbelief. How the hell am I supposed to take the Ginza battle seriously with that stuff (and no, a bit of blood spatter doesn’t whitewash the issue)?   So far, I think the atmosphere of the battles is a bit off, and they could do a better job of that even with broadcast restrictions. Ushio to Tora seems fine (no censoring) with showing people chomped to pieces.  Kind of weird when that anime (adaptation of a classic shounen manga) is more graphic than GATE. Furthermore, the manga has a lot more “military lingo” which in my opinion very much helps to “set the mood”/atmosphere. The battles thus far felt more real in the manga which is kind of weird given the differences in medium. Focusing on the empire side exclusively in Ep. 02 wasn’t nearly as effective as the manga’s presentation, and frankly, Duran’s (Dulan in the manga TL) “I shoot my arrow at thee” moment was kind of over-the-top silly rather than anything dramatic.

GATE Anime Inital Review_03

“Fools! Fear my single out of range bow shot!!”

GATE Anime Inital Review_07

Reader participation – make up your own joke here. 😛

Comedy is subjective so just my opinion here. With that disclaimer out of the way, the anime’s “comedy” is not working for me, and I don’t think it’s due to being spoiled. I’ve read the manga multiple times and laughed at the same jokes. Anime comedy presentation/timing is off. Well, that and such “jokes” as Lelei doing her “Darth Vader” impersonation in a military bio/chem hazard uniform complete with gas mask. LOL? Rather than LOL, I wondered (a) where she got that, and (b) when she requested one (she didn’t steal it did she?), why the person didn’t say “it’s perfectly safe to go outside the military complex walls, you don’t need it”. Sadly, I did LOL a couple of times, but it wasn’t at parts intended to be funny. :/ Hate to keep repeating the same theme, but yeah, manga does comedy better.  Honestly, I could add other complaints, including what Bear mentions below.

GATE Anime Inital Review_05

“Hey, if you think I’m bad, go watch Fate Stay Night anime. Now THAT is a bad CGI dragon!”

So what is working? I like the OP quite a bit. Did a pretty good job with that though the disco inspired ED is kind of weird. Overall GATE anime visually is pretty good. Nothing exceptional like last season’s UBW, but at least above average in my opinion. Even the CGI dragon wasn’t too bad (as far as CGI dragons go – guess a good CGI dragon is still beyond modern technology). That’s a plus because the GATE series does lend itself to a more visual medium with all the battles and fantasy setting. While above I mentioned battle shortcomings, the battles are not bad. Not nearly as much standing around and talking as some shows which is very much appreciated but I could do with less speed lines. Scene transition is mixed. For the most part pretty good, but a couple of times going from comedy to serious didn’t work very well. Eh, could be worse so let’s call it a plus. The pacing is kind of slow/off. Now that might be because I know the story, and thus could be just fine for anime only viewers. Not sure, but still seems a bit slow/padded to me. At least it’s not rushed/super compressed some other adaptations so in the plus category it goes.  There are some other minor positives such as the anime-only(?) bit with the little girl in the middle/end of Ep. 01.

This is getting long so I’ll wrap things up. GATE anime is “OK”, but falls short – too short, of its potential and the manga. For those interested in the anime or enjoying it so far, absolutely no reason not to check it out/continue watching. However, I do recommend that you do not read the manga until after watching the anime. As far as a military anime goes, it’s a bit disappointing as well – again falling short of the manga’s standard.

– Bear

This show has convinced me that reading the source material before watching the anime is probably going to reduce if not destroy my enjoyment of the anime version. Not that the anime is always worse than the source material, but it works better for me if I read the manga or LN afterwards to “fill in the blanks”. For some reason directors feel like they have to change things. Now there are times where it’s necessary because of budget, time or because the source doesn’t translate well to a visual medium. I don’t see that applying here. Gate is a good example of where, while it doesn’t ruin the story, it detracts from the original. In this case I mean the manga. I don’t know if the LN character designs reflect the LN or not, but I’m not a fan of how the women are drawn in the anime. Many of them are too “cute”. Maybe that’s a budgetary thing but it reduces the sense of their competence. For example manga Kuribayashi looks orders of magnitude more bad ass than anime Kuribayashi.

GATE Anime Inital Review_08

Anime Kawaii Kuribayashi!

GATE Anime Inital Review_09 - Kuribiyashi manga

Manga Badass Kuribayashi!

The changes in Itami and Kurata, as daikama pointed out, made Itami more of a clown than the manga. In the manga, while he’s not a hard charger, when push comes to shove he steps up and takes charge. In the anime I don’t feel like he’s that competent and it’s more luck that he comes out on top.

One area that the anime is doing a decent job of is the JSDF equipment. Their rifles are  Howa Type 64 and the AT weapon they fired at the flame dragon was a Panzerfaust 3, both of which are in the JSDF inventory. Here’s a link to a site that’s done a good job of identifying the weapons. OTOH, the Panzerfaust 3 shell flew in a totally ridiculous manner. I’ve seen TOW’s fly like that but the Panzerfaust 3 shell just doesn’t weave around in the air. I would like to see more of their equipment and operational methods and I wish they had done the battles more in the way they were done in the manga but I’ll take what I can get.

Gate is not the worst adaptation I’ve seen, and actually it’s above average in a number of respects up to this point. I also have to second the comments daikama has made in his critique.

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8 thoughts on “Gate Anime – First Impressions

  1. Maybe it is an effect of going anime-first, but I don’t think Itami was shafted much, if at all. The main difference between anime and manga is that manga has less of a time element. Further, anime has 24 minutes of screentime to fill. The end result is that you wound up seeing “peacetime Itami” a lot more, and peacetime Itami is an otaku.

    While there are some mild resequencing of events, overall if one can zoom in on the manga to see all the “undrawn frames” in between, in those frames Itami will look a lot like the anime. If anything, the anime gave Itami the chance to actually kill something within the first episode, which I think should be a fair sign that however goofy he looks he does have a competent side.

    You are probably also averaging Itami out among 47 scanlated chapters (or are there more) and Itami does show his stuff in many of the later ones. However, we are about up to Ch8 right now, and Itami is often a goofball or at best lazy in those parts.

    I do see that Tuka and Lelei have been made slightly more cute (I think the Darth Vader scene is meant more to be cute than funny and to represent her curiosity in a visual form), but I think Gate does need to look more “accessible”. I admit I heard of Gate, but in a world with so much manga, the art made me decide to look for lighter stuff.

    However for Kuribayashi, I think that’s not very fair. Manga Kuribayashi has substantial deviations and there is plenty of cute Kuribayashi. Here’s one of them:
    http://bato.to/read/_/209773/gate-thus-the-jsdf-fought-there_v3_ch17v2_by_ak-scanlations/21

    The problem is that anime as a medium is not quite as free as manga to change a person’s appearance for effect and this manga-ka is playing it pretty hard. Considering the scenes Kuribayashi has to perform, the anime character design is probably a good compromise that can be stretched in either direction without resorting to wild appearance jumps.

  2. @Kazuaki Shimazaki: Thanks for the comment. I’ll start with “Itami the Otaku”. First, there are a lot of shades of grey with someone as an “otaku”; it’s not all or nothing. I think it’s fair to say that “anime Kurata” is an otaku, but look at the difference in how he acts for that stuff vs. “anime Itami”. Like I said, the anime switched their roles when it came to that stuff apart from Ep. 03 when they were talking about “elves being moe”. THAT was “manga Itami”, though even then then anime toned down Kurata by removing him mentioning “I like monster girls in general, what of it?”, etc. lines. Frankly, that scene was inconsistent in terms of how “anime Itami reacted” given Ep. 01 & 02. I was honestly surprised that Itami didn’t get all hyper about elves & such because that’s how he was the first two episodes. I thought “OK, now we’re back to the “manga Itami”. Nope, more fool me. 😦

    Even in the manga we see Itami both in “peacetime” mode and other. He’s interested in the stuff, but he’s not constantly hyper spastic about it. Look at the difference between the manga’s version and the anime when Itami finds out they can access the net in the other world. Much more hyper spastic otaku in the anime. Then there’s what I suspect is anime only stuff. Never saw him hug Kurata when overwhelmed by “otaku fever” in the manga – right? Never saw him make some histrionic pose while anguishing over not getting some doujinshi or whatnot while in front of a high ranking officer (e.g. general) or official. When he was in the manga, he was very much “Yes, Sir!”. It’s a matter of degree and frequency. I can not emphasize that enough. Yes, he’s a bit of a goofball and lazy, but that’s different from being a clown – which is what he is when the anime went to the same “joke well” again in terms of him learning the other world language in Ep. 04 (around 9:30 min) with Kurata, again, playing competent straight man.

    Look at that scene. In the anime, Kurata is this competent subordinate and Itami’s this bumbling commander. In 48 chapters, I cannot recall one single time Itami ever consulted with Kurata (of all people). So to me it’s not a matter of “we’re just seeing peace time Itami” because we do see that in the manga early. It’s the change in “peace time Itami”, and no, I’m not simply averaging it over 48 chapters. The anime amped up OTAKU!!! Itami from the start. Like I keep saying – the anime effectively swapped their roles. They changed the characters plain and simple for a reason (see below), and I for one do NOT like the change. As for Itami killing that empire soldier, that’s fine and all, but it just makes him all the more “Jekyll and Hyde” when it comes to “Itami the Otaku” and “Itami the Soldier”. I’ll be honest, watching that struck me as a bit of “shounen-izng”. ML has the be the star/hero – in bare handed melee combat no less. >_> Police are not treated as that incompetent in the manga either. Anime also deleted one scene of Itami taking charge/command of the situation which does matter in my opinion because, again, it’s how you portray the character and balance. It’s one less instance of Itami as a competent leader which is all the more beneficial since the anime amped up the otaku part so much.

    I agree with you that the anime has 20-21 minutes (24 with OP/ED) of time to fill. Clearly the anime went with amp up Itami the Otaku!!! for “comedy”. See above about how I feel on the character change which is made worse by the fact the “comedy” isn’t working for me for a variety of reasons. However, there are a whoooole bunch of other options here. They could easily have stuck to the manga’s character versions which I assume to be per source (at least novel), and have Kurata as the “otaku comic relief guy” per manga. That couldn’t be done why exactly? No reason whatsoever. You could still do the “otaku” jokes if all they can do is pick proverbial “low hanging fruit” for comedy padding. Another option is to simply speed up pacing, but I would not do that. Right now, pacing is about two manga chapters per episode which ends us around chapter 48. Web-chapter 46 (Tankōbon chapter number is a bit different as some chapters are combined) would be a great place to end (that should equal LN vol. 04). That still leaves “option A” – Kurata the Otaku!!! for comic relief on the table. There are other things as well. They expanded Kurata’s role so they could do the same for others in Recon 3. Kuribayashi and Kurokawa are prime candidates, but there are others in Recon 3 as well.

    Regarding character designs, I have looked at the LN versions and LN is better IMO. Frankly, on the whole, I prefer the LN designs over the manga, but both work for me. Anime, however, once again had to “do it’ s own thing for reasons” compared to the light novel designs, and sorry, I don’t like the changes. Itami and Tuka are fine (quite close to LN). Lelie is too “moe-ified”, and same goes for both Kuribayashi and Kurokawa. Have to agree with Bear on that – anime went too far making them, especially Kuribayashi, extra “moe” because… hell if I know. Can’t think of a valid reason other than personal taste I guess. Frankly, anime Rory’s character design is my least favorite. Her face doesn’t look right at all (and again, LN or manga designs are just fine). The anime even had to “amp up” her halberd because… why again? WTF is with the giant shrimp fork/tuning fork on top. Some may think I’m being pedantic here, but then again WHY make the change to something less realistic? Because it’s “cooler”? Not in my opinion.

    As for comedy “reaction faces”, seen a bunch of pretty darn extreme anime reaction faces so I don’t see how the medium is a restriction here. Even if they don’t go to the same extreme as the manga, there is still quite a bit of grey area left. Ushio to Tora has plenty of that type of comedy “reaction faces” so… I’m not a big fan of Ushio to Tora manga (not really into the whole pure shounen thing anymore), but I have to say, in terms of adapting the source material, it’s doing a MUCH better job than GATE thus far. It’s a good, solid adaptation IMO, and there are plenty of things Ushio anime does that GATE anime could do in terms of adaptation.

    Sorry for the long reply, but frankly, I could go on here. I like GATE manga quite a bit. It’s not perfect and it is very “R” rated seinen which I understand may be in issue for some, but I find it a surprisingly good series and anime is not doing that series justice in my opinion. Really getting tired of sub-par adaptations for series I like.

    • The main issue I have with the review here is the assumption that the manga is the source material. It is not. The manga itself is a 2011 adaption from the light novel series by Takumi Yanai, published beginning in 2006. While we can compare the differences between the manga and the anime, in terms of determining the intent of the original author (which I consider to be the most important aspect of any adaptation) requires incorporating a comparison of the original work. In my opinion, to be a valid derivative work, there is room for differences in interpretation, derivative works may not also be divergent.

      Personally, I am of the opinion that, in an attempt to make the anime accessible to a broader viewer base, they have sanitized it too much in many places. It has diverged from the light novels, and in places is essentially writing new back-story. That treatment will eventually lead to plot divergences.

      [daikama edit – **SPOILER NOTICE**]
      ***
      ***
      ***
      An upcoming example of which will be the scene in the capital where Itami punches out the crown prince, and Kawaii finishes the job. With the anime sanitized, Itami has no real reason to attack the prince. For the anime, sure, a Japanese citizen was captured, but we can’t be shown the level of degradation of the suffering of the prisoner, and consequently, a show of fury by the usually calm Itami would be inappropriate, and everything following that action, unrealistic.
      ***
      ***
      ***
      The problem is that the writers for the anime do not appear to be looking at the collection as a whole. While they undoubtedly are using a story board, they seem to be writing episodically, and consequently are only restricted by the need to make one episode logically follow another. Little changes from episode to episode are carried, and lead to the necessity for larger divergences down the line, until you have written yourself into a plot hole. It’s the kind of problem the results in an anime hanging after a season or two.

      • @Jrc: “The main issue I have with the review here is the assumption that the manga is the source material. It is not.”

        I know. You might want to note the Series Introduction (copied in part below), particularly the end I put in bold:
        “The web novel was turned into a novel which, from comments I’ve read, toned down the political stuff some. The web novel was then taken down so novel = “cannon”/original source material. The novel was adapted into a light novel (LN) which apparently further toned down the political stuff along with some other things (my impression is that the LN is more “PG” shounen than “R” rated seinen). Lastly the novel was adapted into a manga which according to comments I’ve read follows the novel closely (manga is definitely NSFW/ “R” rated seinen). Currently, only the manga is translated to English in any meaningful aspect, and right now is just past the first two novels/4 LNs. The anime is supposed to be based upon the LN, so differences between that and the manga may be either due to anime only changes or differences between the LN and manga adaptations.

        As for the “original work” and “author’s intent”, that would be the novel (since it effectively replaced the web-novel which no longer exists). Both the LN and the manga are adaptations of the novel. Perhaps I’m mistaken, but per above, comments I read supposedly by those who have read both the novel and manga stated that the manga follows the novel “closely”. My impression is that the manga follows the novel at least as closely as the LN if not more so. Perhaps I’m mistaken in that regard. If you have read the novel (I’m assuming you have read the LN), then maybe you can make a comparison of the novel, manga, LN and anime in term of how close/faithful each is to the novel.

        I agree that the anime is over-sanitizing certain aspects. As I’ve noted in my review, I also think that it makes changes for…. “reasons”, particularly concerning the characters. Pina is now on that list – at least compared to the manga. Maybe she’s a different person in the LN. Don’t know, but she’s noticeably less confident to me in the anime, and Ep 09’s “joke” line made her look like an idiot rather than provide any “comedy” (granted comedy is subjective). Lately the anime has toned down Itami the OTAKU!!! so he’s more like the manga version. Good (IMO), except it also comes across as inconsistent now thanks the anime amping that up for “comedy” early on.

        Nine episodes in, and my opinion has not changed much, if at all. Since the LN is not the original work, I consider comparing two different adaptations (three really since the anime is an adaptation of an adaptation) valid. Even if I don’t compare, I find the anime presentation & execution lacking, and it’s not just sanitizing things. The presentation/execution is off IMO. Terribly, no, but compared to other anime which IMO do those things well – off/sub-par/etc. Granted just my opinion like anyone else, but even if I had not read the manga, while I would think better of the anime to some degree, I would not think the GATE anime is “great” or “Anime of the Season” let alone “Anime of the Year”.

        As for future plot lines, I guess it won’t matter in the long run, but please realize that since we are unable to incorporate spoiler tags, at least note that you are posting a spoiler even if it’s as simplistic as ***SPOILER*** followed by some blank lines, then the spoiler.

        • >The presentation/execution is off IMO.

          After seeing 9 episodes, I’m slowly coming around to this point of view. While I still see Itami’s “extra” otakuness as a change of presentation mandated by anime form (so as more things happen relatively it is looking toned down), the one that really fixed the conclusion was when Itami grabbed Rory before she killed our left-wing Diet member Koihara. In essence, they cut just one line from his speech, but gawd, what a difference that made and it was not for the better. There are a number of others before, but this one was where I decided “Yes, it is not only different, but definitely inferior.”

          Having said that, I don’t think JRC has too much to worry about. While they’ve slotted in a few things, so far IMO they’ve refrained from making any moves that would bite them in the butt, at least till the equivalent of Chapter 48 or so. Thus, I’m looking forward to see how they’ll resolve that scene.

        • @Kazuaki Shimazaki: Agree about the Diet scene. Just one more example IMO. What’s odd is that the pacing is certainly slow enough to where it’s not a issue of “not enough time” and thus forced to leave out a line here and there. Just a decision made for “reasons”.

          As for the “upcoming scene”, I also agree. If I had to bet, certain people will still be… umm… “detained” shall we say, but it won’t be nearly as graphic (i.e. nudity and such). In short, I think it plays out pretty much same as the manga (which again I presume follows the novel closely, and the LN not that different than the novel), but “PG-13” version instead of “R” rated version. That’s been the adaptation’s SOP in general.

  3. Typo:

    The line “In my opinion, to be a valid derivative work, there is room for differences in interpretation, derivative works may not also be divergent.” should read “In my opinion, to be a valid derivative work, while there can be differences in interpretation, a derivative work may not be divergent.”

  4. Hard for me to call this one. I em enjoying the show, only to the extent that I have not dropped it…..yet. But it isn’t great, which is why I am about 1 week behind on watching Gate (I’m at the part where the people beyond the gate are introduced to our world).

    I actually quite like Itami as is. Very much the soldier, but never far from the otaku. But the rest of the characters are not very well defined or interesting. I can only name a few people in the group: Itami and Rory (Big ass axe helps)….the rest are simply uninteresting or forgettable. This anime isn’t anything to write home about but it’s pretty good seasonal filler =P

    Panzer VOR!

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